The Liturgy Explained - Eucharist

A Study of the Liturgy based upon Fr. Schmemann's book the Eucharist

 

Key Terms: Liturgy = "work of the people

" Eucharist = "thanksgiving" Prosfora = "to bring forth . . . the offering"

Sphrayida = "the seal"
NI KA
IC = J esu S
XC = C hristo S
NIKA = Conquers


I. The Service of Preparing the Gifts (Proskomide = the carrying or conveying of something to a certain place.)

This service takes place prior to the beginning of the Liturgy by the priest alone. The order of the service reveals a symbolic preliminary sacrifice of Christ - (The Lamb is "crucified, pierced with a lance, blood and water flowed from his side)

1. Historical factors which shaped this service:

The Eucharist was first and foremost an offering and sacrifice made by everyone- they brought with themselves everything that they could spare for the needs of the Church i.e. widows, orphans and the spreading of faith.

The Deacons were "appointed ministers of Charity" and they were the ones who received the gifts, prepared them and distributed them as a loving service of the Church.

*Note: Up to the 14th C it was the deacon alone who performed this rite and brought the prepared gift to the presbyter at the appropriate time of "Offering."

As the Church grew and became "recognized" by the empire (under Constantine) the work of charity for the entire empire became the obligation of the Church. As this happened, "good works" became an activity separate from the Eucharistic Offering.

"For so obvious was the inner link between the Eucharist and the "sacrifice of love," the inner dependency of one on the other in the consciousness of the Church, that the preparation of the gifts, on ceasing to be an expression of practical needs, remained as a rite, expressing this inner dependency, realizing this inner link." (Schmemann, The Eucharist, p. 109)

2. Theological points of the Proskomide:

The sacrifice of Christ upon the Cross has already been offered and serves as the pre-conditions for our "Eucharist Offering." Likewise, this rite precedes the Offering of the Liturgy.
Bread and wine are referred to as the symbols of the sacrifice of Christ.
Bread and Wine are the symbols of our Offering in response to the redemptive work of Christ.

"In offering our prosfora, we offer and return ‘ourselves and each other and all our life' to God." (Schmemann, The Eucharist, p. 112)

The Church fulfills herself as offering and sacrifice by restoring to food (bread and wine) the power of communion with God. Food becomes part of us and sustains life in us - Now real Life is given by food - the life of God.

"Eucharist - the Fathers called "Eucharist" the bread and wine of the offering, and their offering and consecration, and finally, communion . . . For we know that food is life and the whole world has been created as food for man. We also know that to offer this food, this world, this life to God is the initial "eucharistic" function of man. . .This offering to God of bread and wine, of the food that we must eat in order to live, is our offering to Him of ourselves, of our life and of the whole world." (Schmemann, For the Life of the World, p. 35)

II. The Sacrament of the Assembly:

Ekklesia (Church) - means a "gathering" an "assembly" - for the first Christians this implied for the purpose of reveal and realize the Church.

1. "Assembly" Eucharistic - its end and fulfillment lies in the Eucharist breaking of the bread.

"As my Father appointed a kingdom for me, so do I appoint for you that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom..." (Lk 22:29-30)

To be the New Covenant - the Church "And unite all of us to one another who become partakers of the one Bread and Cup in the communion of the Holy Spirit." (The Liturgy of St. Basil)

Traditionally: the congregation Assembles first - then the bishop enters. The Bishop is at his throne on the solea and he enters the altar at the entrance with the Gospel. This was the original order. This means that the first liturgical act of the Church was always to Assemble.

III. The Sacrament of the Kingdom : (Lk 22:29-30)

"Blessed is the Kingdom of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, now and ever and unto the ages of ages!" Amen!

"The Divine Liturgy is an image of the Kingdom of God, an image of the last times." (Met. John Zizioulas, "The Eucharist and the Kingdom of God", (Sourozh, 1994)

In the context of the Last Supper, Christ refers everything to the Kingdom of his Father (Also in Like 22:15-16,18)
The appearances of Christ during the 40 days - the breaking of Bread in an atmosphere of joy (Luke 24, John 21 & Acts 2:46)
The Aramaic expression "Maranatha (1 Cor 16:22) is a liturgical-eucharistic term which means, "The Lord has come, The Lord is coming, The Lord will come again."


The Lord's prayer formed the core of ancient Liturgies: "Thy Kingdom Come" & "Our essential Bread" referred to the Eucharist
The Eucharist as a movement and progression
The Gift of Pentecost in the Church - the last days have begun:

"Through His coming on the "last and great day of Pentecost" the Holy Spirit transforms this last day into the first day of the new creation and manifests the Church as the gift and presence of this first and "eighth" day. . .Where the Holy Spirit is, there is the Kingdom of God." (Schmemann, The Eucharist, p. 36)

Q. What does it mean to "Bless the Kingdom?

"It means that we acknowledge and confess it to be our highest and ultimate value, the object of our desire, our love and our hope...We proclaim it to be the goal of the sacrament - of pilgrimage, ascension, entrance - that now begins." (Schmemann, The Eucharist, p. 47)

IV. The Sacrament of Entrance

1. The Great Litany

"Do we understand that this is . . . the prayer of Christ himself to his Father, which has been granted to us, and that this gift of Christ's prayer, of His mediation, of His intercession is the first and greatest gift of the Church? We pray in Christ, and he through his Holy Spirit, prays in us, who are gathered in his name." (Schmemann, The Eucharist, p. 54)

The Litany according to Fr. Schmemann:

"The peace from above:" is the Kingdom of God, the righteousness and peace and joy of the Holy Spirit' (Rom 14:17)

"And the Salvation of our souls:" the acquisition of this Kingdom is also the salvation of our souls. We begin by praying for the "one thing needful"

"For the welfare of the Holy Churches of God"

"The prayer for the welfare is a prayer for the fidelity and steadfastness of Christians, that the Church, diffused over the whole earth, may in each place be faithful to herself, to her essence, to her purpose."

"And for the union of all"

"The unity of all in God is the ultimate aim of creation and salvation - "that they may become perfectly one" (John 17:23)

"For this Holy house and for those who enter it with faith, reverence and the fear of God"

"This is the condition for our genuine participation in the prayer and the sacrament, and everyone who enter the temple must examine himself: does he have in his heart a living faith and reverence for the presence of God - that saving "fear of God" that we so often lose, being "accustomed" or "used to" the Church and the worship services?"

"For the Episcopate, for all the clergy and the people"

" For the Church, to which we belong and which, in the unity of all her servants- bishops, priest, deacons and the people of God - manifests and fulfills herself, here and now, as the body of Christ."

"For the Country, for the city for the authorities, for all people, for seasonable weather, for the abundance of the fruits of the earth, for travelers, for the sick and suffering, for captives..."

"The prayer extends to and embraces the entire world, all nature, all mankind, all life. The Church is given power and authority to lift up this universal prayer, interceding before God for his entire creation."

"Commemorating all the saints, i.e., the whole Church with the Mother of God at her head, "Let us commit ourselves and each other, and all our life unto Christ our God."

"When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. (Col 3:2-4) We return our life to Christ because He is our life, because in the baptismal font we died to the simple "natural life," and our true life is hid in the mysterious heights of the Kingdom of God."

2. The Antiphons

Antiphons can change and be substituted according to Feast days and at the discretion of the local community. Psalm 102 for the 1st Antiphon, Psalm 145 for the second Antiphon and the Beatitudes for the third Antiphon.

A.) The First Antiphon "By the prayer of the Theotokos . . ."

B.) The Second Antiphon "Only begotten Son and Word of God."

C.) The Third Antiphon

The third Antiphon changes according to the "Apolotikion" of the day. These are "Resurrectional Hymns." There are eight hymns according to the eight tones of Byzantine music. On Major Feasts days special hymns of the Feast or Saint may be sung i.e., Pentecost, Transfiguration, Theophony, Feast of Mary and at Easter we sing "Christ is Risen - Xristos Anesti"

3. The Three Prayers Originally, these prayers were audible. They are prayers of the entire Assembly.

The first prayer: the priest confesses the Church's faith

"God's glory is inexpressible, his mercy is immeasurable, his love for man is inexpressible.Look down upon us . . ."

The second prayer: God has united himself with us

The third prayer: to this new people God has revealed his Truth - his kingdom.

The Entrance of the celebrant and the people marks a passage from the old into the new - from this world into the world to come. As the priest enters the sanctuary (and in him the whole Church) approaches the altar. The "altar" and "temple" of the Church are Christ Himself - His humanity which he has sacrificed and offered.

V. The Sacrament of the Word

1. The Trisagion Hymn

As the priest approached the altar we sing "Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal, have mercy on us." We are singing in unison with the eternal choir of angels who at the throne of God offer their adoration.

"Holy is the real name of God. . . and in this word we express both that God is Absolutely Other, the One about whom we know nothing, and that He is the end of all our hunger . . Holy is the word, the song, the "reaction" of the Church as it enters into heaven, as it stands before the heavenly glory of God." (Schmemann, For the Life of the World, p. 32)

2. The Readings: Synagogue Tradition

The Prayer for Illumination:

"The proclamation of the Word is a sacramental act par excellence because it is a transforming act. It transforms the human words of the Gospel into the Word of God and the manifestation of His Kingdom. And it transforms the man who hears the Word into a receptacle of the Word and a temple of the Spirit." (Schmemann, The Eucharist, p. 33)

The Epistle ReadingThe epistle is thematically and theologically linked with the Gospel reading.

Following the reading the congregation responds by singing: "Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia"

Alleluia means more than praise God. It comes from a type of singing called "melismatic singing." It is a greeting in the most profound sense of the term. The Gospel is now before us. The "verbal icon" of Christ - He stands before us in the Word and we cry out . . . "Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia"

The Gospel Reading: For the first time since the beginning of our journey the priest turns toward the people and says: "Peace be with you."

"Christ is our peace - the reconciliation with God, divine forgiveness, communion. And the peace that the priest announces and bestows upon us is the peace Christ has established between God and His world and into which we, the Church have entered." (Schmemann, The Eucharist, p. 32)

The Homily:

In the Church, as part of the sacrament, the Holy Spirit inspires the people to receive the Word of God. This is the proclamation of the good news, of joy and of God's Kingdom in our midst.

The omitted dismissal of the Catechumens * Petitions * Prayers for the Catechumens * The dismissal

VI. The Sacrament of the Faithful

"The Eucharist by its very nature, is a closed Assembly of the Church, and that in this Assembly all are ordained and all serve each is his place, in one liturgical action of the Church." (Schmemann, The Eucharist, p. 88)

Prayer of the Faithful: (read the prayer)

The unfolding of the antimension:

antimension = in place of table This cloth has relics sown into it and is signed by the Bishop. This tradition goes back to celebrating the Liturgy on the tomb of saints.

The Hymn of Offering: The Cherubic Hymn Christ offers Himself in the bread and wine and we are simultaneously offering ourselves back to Him.

VII. The Sacrament of Offering

"May the Lord our God Remember all of you in His Kingdom"

"Remembrance is an act of Love. God remembers us and His remembrance, His love is the foundation of the world. . . The Church on its journey to heaven, remembers the world, remembers all men, remembers the whole of creation, takes it in love to God." (Schmeman, The Eucharist, p. 36)

Our Offering is nothing other than Christ Himself

"We offer our sacrifice to God the Father, and yet we have nothing to offer but Christ Himself; for He is our life and our offering."

VIII. The Sacrament of Unity

The giving of Peace

"Let us love one another that with one mind we may confess"

This is a call to exchange a greeting of Christian love

"The Church, if it is to be the Church, must be the revelation of that divine love which God "poured out into our hearts." Without this love nothing is valid in the Church because nothing is possible." (For the Life, p. 36)

"God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us." (Rm 5:5)

"By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another." (Jn 13:35)

"This is the new love, the love of Christ which transforms the stranger, the enemy into brother and sister." (Fr. Schmemann)

The Symbol of Faith- the Creed (381 Nicea, by 6th C. it entered the Liturgy)

Unity in Faith, in belief was the presupposition of being part of a closed Assembly. Everyone in the Church believed the same and that allowed them all to partake together and become one.

Unity with each other: "And unite all of us to one another, who become partakers of the one bread and cup in the communion of the Holy Spirit." (St. Basil's Liturgy)

Unity from above: "Faith is the partaking of the unity from above, and in it of the "beginning of another life, new and eternal." And the Church is manifested in this world as the gift, the presence, the fulfillment of this unity from above and thus of faith." (Eucharist, p. 151)

Kiononia - spiritual relationship are stronger than blood relationship (St. Basil)

IX. The Sacrament of the Anaphora - "lifting up"

The beginning of the lifting up of our Offering "Let us stand well. Let us stand in awe. Let us be attentive, that we may present the holy offering in peace."

The Eucharistic Prayer/The Solemn Blessing: "The grace of our Lord, Jesus Christ and the Love of God the Father and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all." (2 Col 13;13)

A triumphant affirmation and confession that the Church is gathered in Christ and in Him offers the Eucharist. The blessing is unusual because it does not begin as a "trinitarian prayer" (Father, Son, Holy Spirit) but it begins with our Lord Jesus Christ. This affirms that He is the way unto our salvation.

Our salvation has been granted to us in Christ, the Son of God in whom "we have peace with God . . . we have obtained access to His grace." (Rom 5:1-2)

"We have one mediator between God and men, the man Jesus Christ." ( 1Tim 2:5)

"I am the way and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father except by me." (Jn 14:6)

Christian faith begins with Christ who then makes known the Father and His Kingdom as life in the Holy Spirit.-

"Let us lift up our hearts" This is more than anything else an affirmation that the Eucharist is accomplished not on earth but in heaven.

"But even when we were dead in our trespasses, God made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved) , and raised us up with him, and made us sit with him in the heavenly places with Christ Jesus." (Eph 2:5-6)

"What is heaven to me, when I contemplate the Master of heaven, when I myself become heaven." (St. John Chrysostom)

Our Response: "We lift them up unto the Lord"

"Let us beware that we do not remain on earth." (St. John Chrysostom)

"But if we remain on earth we have no place in the heavenly Eucharist, and in that case our presence at its celebration becomes our condemnation. . . Are our hearts turned to the Lord, is the ultimate treasure of our heart in God, in heaven?" (Eucharist, p. 169)

"Let us give thanks to the Lord": The beginning of the Eucharistic Prayer . . .

" . . .expressing in these words that unconditional surrender with which true ‘religion' begins. For faith is not . . . a reasonable solution to the frustration and anxieties of life. It does not arise out of a lack of something but ultimately it comes out of fullness, love and joy. 'It is proper and right' expresses all of this. It is the only possible response to the divine invitation to live and to receive abundant life." (Fr. Schmemann, For the Life of the World, p. 38

The Eucharistic Prayer (termed the preface)

Through the action of thanksgiving the Church ascends to the throne of God.

We are thankful for:

"Access to the one true triune God"

It is proper and right to sing to You, bless You, praise You, thank You and worship You in all places of Your dominion; for You are God ineffable, beyond comprehension, invisible, beyond understanding, existing forever and always the same; You and Your only begotten Son and Your Holy Spirit."

"God as our Creator and Savior: recognizing the sin of pride"

"You brought us into being out of nothing, and when we fell, You raised us up again."

"The gift of God's Kingdom - now we are at God's throne"

"You did not cease doing everything until you led us to heaven and granted us your kingdom to come."

"For all these things we thank You and Your only begotten Son and Your Holy Spirit; or all things that we know and do not know, for blessing seen and unseen that have been bestowed upon us.

"We also thank You for this Liturgy which You are pleased to accept from our hands, even though You are surrounded by thousands of Archangels and tens of thousands of Angels, by the Cherubim and the Seraphim, six winged, many eyed, soaring with their wings, Singing the Victory hymn, proclaiming, crying out and saying:"

"Holy, Holy, Holy" Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord of Sabaoth, heaven and earth are filled with Your glory, Hosanna in the highest. Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna to God in the highest."

"We had to ascend to heaven in Christ to see and to understand the creation in its real being as glorification of God, as that response to divine love in which alone creation becomes what God wants it to be: thanksgiving, eucharist, adoration." (Schmemann, p. 39)

Our thanksgiving brings us to Christ who is at the heart of all our thanksgiving

"Together with these blessed powers, merciful Master, we also proclaim and say: You are holy and most holy, You and Your only begotten Son and Your holy Spirit. You are holy and most holy, and sublime is Your glory. You so loved Your world that You gave Your only begotten Son so that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life. He came and fulfilled the divine plan for us. On the night when He was delivered up, or rather when He gave Himself up for the life of the world, He took bread in His holy, pure and blameless hands, gave thanks, blessed, sanctified, broke, and gave it to His holy disciples and apostles, saying:"

"As we stand before God, there is nothing else we can remember and bring with us and offer to God but this self-offering of Christ because in it all thanksgiving, all remembrance, all offering - that is , the whole life of man and of the world are fulfilled." (Schmemann, The Eucharist, p. 41)

Our Thanksgiving brings us the Last Supper - The Remembrance

"The sacrament of the Eucharist is neither a remembrance or a repetition of the Last Supper. It is rather its manifestation." (St. John Chrysostom)

The "Mystical Supper" manifested: * The Kingdom of God : Christ said, "I am no more in the world" (John 17:1, Judas leaves Paradise) * Christ identifies Himself as the Bread and Wine

"We offer to You these gifts from your own gifts in all and for all"

"We offered the bread in remembrance of Christ because we know that Christ is Life, and that all food, therefore, must lead us to Him. . .Only in the Kingdom can we confess with St. Basil that "this bread is in very truth the precious body of our Lord, this wine the very precious blood of Christ." What is supernatural here, in this world, is revealed as natural there. And it is always in order to lead us "there" and to make us what we are that the Church fulfills herself in Liturgy." (Schmemann, The Eucharist, p.43)

The Epiclesis: "The Invocation of the Holy Spirit/ the end has begun- Pentecost is here"

"Once again we offer to You this spiritual worship without the shedding of blood, and we ask, pray and entreat You: send down Your Holy Spirit upon us and upon these gifts here presented. And make this bread the precious Body of Your Christ. Amen. And that which is in this cup the precious Blood of Christ. Amen. Changing them by Your Holy Spirit. Amen. Amen. Amen."

"It is the Holy Spirit who manifests the bread as the body of Christ and the wine as the blood of Christ. . .in the Eucharist it is He (Holy Spirit) who seals our ascension into heaven, who transforms the Church into the body of Christ and-therefore-manifests the elements of our offering as communion in the Holy Spirit. This is the consecration." (Schmemann, The Eucharist, p. 44)

The prayer continues: "So that they may be to those who partake of them for vigilance of soul, forgiveness of sins, communion of your Holy Spirit, fulfillment of the kingdom of heaven, confidence before You, and not in judgment or condemnation. Again we offer this worship for those who repose in the faith. . . every righteous spirit made perfect in faith."

* "Unite us all to one another who become partakers on the one bread and cup in the communion of the Holy Spirit." (Liturgy of Basil)

Note: a Difference between Orthodoxy and Catholicism: The doctrine of the "words of institution" as the cause of change is rejected by Orthodoxy.

To be in Christ means to be like Him - before we partake we intercede for the whole world:

"Especially for . . . the Virgin Mary, ("Axion Estine" is sung) for St. John the Prophet, the Apostles, for the (saint of the day) . . . remember also those who have fallen asleep in the hope of the Resurrection (names) . . . remember all Orthodox Bishops, Presbyters, and Deacons. We also offer to You this spiritual worship for the whole world, for the holy catholic and apostolic Church and for those living in purity and holiness. An for all those in public service. . .Above all, remember Archbishop (name). . . Remember also, Lord, those whom each of us calls to mind and all your people. Remember Lord, the city in which we live, every city and country, and the faithful who dwell in them. Remember Lord, the travelers, the sick, the suffering, the captives. . . Remember, Lord, those who do charitable work, who serve in Your holy Churches, and who care for the poor. And send Your mercy upon us all."

"Intercession constitutes, thus, the only real preparation for communion. For in and through communion not only do we become one body and one spirit, but we are restored to that solidarity and love which the world has lost." (Schmemann, The Eucharist, p. 45)

The Lord's Prayer: Our Father - we have been adopted and all that is His has been freely given to us as a divine gift. His Kingdom has been given unto us.

Communion: "Lord Jesus Christ, our God, hear us from Your holy dwelling place and from the glorious throne of Your Kingdom. You are enthroned on high with the Father and are also invisibly present among us. Come and sanctify us, and let Your pure body and Your precious Blood be given to us by Your mighty hand and through us to all Your people..."

"Let us be attentive. The holy Gifts for the holy people of God"

"Life comes again to us as Gift, a free and divine gift. This is why in the Orthodox Church we call the eucharistic elements Holy Gifts. . .And, therefore, the greatest humility and obedience is the accept the gift, to say yes - in joy and gratitude. There is nothing that we can do, yet we become all that God wanted us to be from eternity, when we are eucharistic." (Schmemann, The Eucharist, p. 45)

Our Return Into the World: "Let us depart in peace" ("The last commandment of the Liturgy")

"Save Your People and Bless Your inheritance" Hymn sung by Everyone: "We have seen the true light; we have received the heavenly Spirit; we have found the true faith, worshipping the undivided Trinity, for the Trinity has saved us."

The Time of Mission: Prayers of thanksgiving